Craig D. Bell Partner

Craig is a nationally recognized tax attorney and tax litigator who represents individuals and businesses having significant tax disputes with federal, state, or local taxing jurisdictions. A former chair of the firm's Tax and Employee Benefits Department, he also leads the firm's state and local tax, and tax litigation practice areas. Craig’s formal training and more than thirty years as a business tax lawyer and tax litigator uniquely qualify him to represent clients on their most significant tax disputes before the tax agencies of all three levels of government.

Craig serves as the firm's lead tax litigator in both trial and appellate federal, state and local tax disputes. He has substantial experience in all areas of tax law with a primary emphasis on state and local taxation, and civil and criminal tax litigation at federal, state and local levels.

Craig also regularly represents and advises businesses and their owners on matters relating to the negotiation, design and implementation of business expansion and relocation economic incentive programs and legislation; state tax legislation lobby activities; and other business transaction services. He is a co-founder and board chairman of Village Bank Financial Corporation, a publicly held commercial bank headquartered in Richmond.

Craig graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law in 1983, serving as vice justice of Phi Alpha Delta from 1982 to 1983 and earning an Outstanding Member Award. He received his post-doctorate masters of law and taxation from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in 1986. He also graduated from Syracuse University, magna cum laude, in 1979; and received his masters in business administration from Syracuse University in 1980. There he served as president from 1978 to 1979 and vice president from 1977 to 1978 of Delta Nu Alpha, Syracuse University Chapter, International Transportation Management Association. Craig also was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international management honors fraternity. He is a recipient of the following awards: Salzberg Outstanding Transportation Management Student Award, 1978; National Defense Transportation Association Outstanding Student Award, 1979; and University Honors Program Graduate, 1979.

Craig served as a judge advocate general in the U.S. Army for six years on active duty. Upon leaving active duty he joined the Army Reserves where he was assigned to the U.S. Army's law school and served as the tax and estate planning advisor to the judge advocate general of the U.S. Army. He recalled to active duty when selected to lead the Department of Defense emergency legal office created to provide legal assistance to victims and their families from the 9-11 Pentagon attack. Craig retired from the Army Reserves in 2006 as a lieutenant colonel after completing 27 years of service.

He is a fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel and serves on the William and Mary Tax Conference Advisory Council. Craig is a past chair of both the Virginia State Bar Section of Taxation and Virginia Bar Association Tax Section, as well as past chair of the Virginia State Bar Military Law Section. He is a Master of the J. Edgar Murdock Inn of Court (U.S. Tax Court).

Craig serves as adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary Law School where he teaches both federal tax litigation and state and local tax courses. He was also a former adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University's master's in taxation program where he taught state and local taxation. He is a frequent lecturer on federal, state and local tax topics for a number of law and accounting professional organizations including the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond, the Virginia Law Foundation of the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia State Bar, the Annual University of Virginia Conference on Federal Taxation, the Annual William and Mary Tax Conference, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Leadership Center and School, the Institute for Management Accountants, the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants, and a number of other law and accounting professional organizations.

Craig also serves as director emeritus of the Community Tax Law Project, a charitable nonprofit organization that provides low income Virginia taxpayers with pro bono legal representation in federal, state and local tax disputes, and he is a past president of the organization. Craig serves as a board trustee for the Virginia War Museum and the Henricus Historical Park Foundation.

Craig has authored a variety of articles involving all aspects of state and local tax issues for State and Local Taxes Weekly published by the Research Institute of America; the Multistate Tax Report, published by BNA’s Tax Management, Inc.; and for State Tax Notes, published by Tax Analysts, Inc.


In the Virginia Supreme Court, obtained a unanimous decision holding a county’s BPOL gross receipts tax on a taxpayer’s sales of duty-free goods to international travelers violated the United States Constitution’s Import-Export Clause, which prohibits states from imposing taxes and duties on exported goods without express permission from Congress. Successfully protected the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision by opposing the local government’s writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.

In the U.S. Tax Court, successfully defended a publicly-owned consumer debt collector from an involuntary change in method of accounting by the IRS that would have accelerated recognition of revenue causing a tax deficiency of $300 million, together with accrued interest of $150 million.

For a Fortune 50 manufacturer company, obtained a $5 million tax refund of machinery and tools tax by successfully challenging the local government’s assessment methodology as violative of the Virginia Constitution.

In case of first impression in Virginia, summary judgment was granted in favor of purchaser of a service assessed with use tax, holding that use tax did not apply to the purchase of services that might otherwise be subject to sales tax, and that any sales tax (as opposed to use tax) that might apply to certain services may only be levied against the vendor.

Overturned $300 million assessment against owners of privately held multinational corporation at IRS Office of Appeals, after IRS issued Revenue Ruling upholding client’s position that clients were not required to include in income receipt of $224 million received in first year of structured PEPS (Premium Exchangeable Participating Shares) transaction and that inclusion of money in income was deferred until transaction closed four years later.

On behalf of Fortune 500 company, overturned civil penalty assessment in excess of $1 million on tax shelter listed transaction and denial of deduction for meals and entertainment expenses through the use of a random sample statistics study, despite IRS policy against use of statistical studies for IRC section 274 documentation and substantiation purposes.

In a landmark decision of the Virginia Supreme Court, prevented a locality from applying tangible personal property and machinery and tools taxes to property located at corporate headquarters, thereby eliminating a multimillion-dollar tax assessment.

Effectively overturned a $1 million assessment of gift taxes on a corporate stock transfer and subsequent valuation dispute before the U.S. Tax Court.

Effectively challenged a $900,000 income tax transferee liability assessment before the U.S. Tax Court.

In litigation before the U.S. Tax Court, overturned $500,000 late filing of return penalty by demonstrating grantor trust beneficiary was denied access to records by overbearing and hostile trustee. Sustained result before federal court of appeals.

Effectively challenged tax assessment, affirmed on appeal, involving civil fraud penalty and valuation of stock in closely held business involving multi-tiered entity timeshare resort owner before the U.S. Tax Court.

Effectively challenged state business and occupancy tax assessments in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, despite debtor taxpayer's failure to timely challenge such assessments before state tax agency.

On behalf of one of the world’s largest publicly traded chemical manufacturer, prevented North Carolina localities from reclassifying certain manufacturing facilities for property tax purposes.

In litigation before the U.S. District Court, effectively challenged multimillion-dollar tax assessment that was based on the Internal Revenue Code section 469 passive activity loss rules.

On behalf of a publicly traded manufacturing company, struck down a gross receipts tax ordinance on Commerce Clause grounds, and sustained result with success defense before the Virginia Supreme Court.

Effectively challenged a locality’s attempt to impose property taxation on a satellite in geo-stationary orbit above the Earth, and sustained the victory before the state's supreme appellate court.

Prevailed on class action claims under ERISA for early retirement incentive benefits, breach of fiduciary duty, and claims for statutory penalties for failing to produce plan documents.

Effectively challenged horse breeding hobby loss tax assessment before the U.S. Tax Court despite 15 years of consecutive net operating losses.

On behalf of a publicly traded jet propulsion engine manufacturer, eliminated the use tax imposed on die cast molds used by the manufacturer but owned by other companies.

On behalf of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Manufacturers Association, prevented contract auditors in Virginia. The resulting Virginia Supreme Court decision closely followed the positions advocated in the legal briefs filed on behalf of these organizations.

On behalf of a Fortune 500 company, effectively challenged a tax assessment exceeding $1 million, and established Virginia law that clearly placed the burden of proof upon the state tax department to demonstrate that it issued a notice of assessment within the three-year limitations period.

  • William & Mary Law School, LLM, Taxation, 1986
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, JD, 1983
  • Syracuse University, MBA, 1980
  • Syracuse University, BS, with Honors Degree, magna cum laude, 1979

Chair, Board of Trustees, Henricus Foundation, 2014-present

Advisory Board Chairman, University of Richmond State and Local Tax Institute, 1998-2003

Chairman, Section of Taxation, 1997-1998 and 2017-present; Board of Governors, 1994-2000 and 2017-present, Virginia State Bar

Chairman, Section on Military Law, 1997-1999; Board of Governors, 1993-2006, Virginia State Bar

Chairman, Tax Section, 2003-2004; Tax Council Member, 1997-2006, Virginia Bar Association

Virginia Correspondent, State Tax Notes, published weekly by Tax Analysts, Inc., 1992-present

Member, Committee on State and Local Tax, Tax Practice Management, Civil and Criminal Tax Penalties, Taxation Section, American Bar Association

Chairman Emeritus; Director; Past President, The Community Tax Law Project

Master, J. Edgar Murdock Inn of Court, U.S. Tax Court

Advisory Council, William and Mary Tax Conference, 1999-present

Director, College of William and Mary Law School Foundation; Chair, Audit and Finance Committee, 2010 – present

  • Speaker, "Recent Developments in Virginia Taxation Through the Eyes of a SALT Practitioner," 64th Annual Tax Conference, William & Mary Law School, November 7, 2018
  • Speaker, "State Income Tax Conformity After the 2017 Tax Act," 70th Annual Virginia Conference on Federal Taxation, University of Virginia, June 7, 2018
  • Speaker, "Virginia Tax Hot Topics," 63rd Annual Tax Conference, William & Mary Law School, November 9, 2017
  • Speaker, "Proper Handling of an Audit Tax Controversy, to Include What to Do Today with the New Partnership (and LLC) Audit Rules," 69th Annual Virginia Conference on Federal Taxation, University of Virginia, June 9, 2017
  • Speaker, "Dealing with the New Partnership (and LLC) Audit Rules," William & Mary Law School, November 10, 2016
  • Speaker, "Avoiding IRS Audits and Defending Oneself in an Audit ," Be a Road Warrior, Not Road Kill: Issues Confronting Fiduciaries, October 7, 2015
  • Speaker, "Hot Issues on Estate and Gift Tax Audits and Appeals," New Developments in Tax and Wealth Planning, October 22, 2014
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Courts Martial
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. Court of International Trade
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Named to "Legal Elite," Taxation, 2002-2006, 2009-2011, 2013-2019; Taxes/Estates/Trusts/Elder Law, 2020-2022, Virginia Business

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Tax Litigation and Controversy, Tax Law, Woodward/White, Inc., 2007-2023

Named to "Virginia Super Lawyers," Tax, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2006-2022

Named "Lawyer of the Year," Tax Litigation & Controversy, Richmond, Best Lawyers, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2019

St. George Tucker Adjunct Professorship Award for outstanding service to the College of William and Mary School of Law, 2012-2013 Academic year, 2012

AV rated, Martindale-Hubbell 

Fellow, American College of Tax Counsel

Fellow, American Bar Foundation

Fellow, Virginia Law Foundation

Recipient, Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing Craig’s career-long pro bono representation of numerous low income taxpayers in federal and state tax disputes and for his passionate training of many lawyers and law students to fully engage in pro bono tax law services to benefit the working poor, The Community Tax Law Project, 2009

Recipient, Local Hero Award, Recognizing his long-term pro bono representation of numerous low income taxpayers before the U.S. Tax Court and the IRS, Bank of America, 2008 

Recipient, Distinguished Service Award, For actions taken in the establishment and leadership of the emergency legal office created to provide pro bono assistance to victims' families from the 9-11 Pentagon attack, American Bar Association LAMP Committee, 2002 

Co-recipient, Pro Bono Award, as President of the Community Tax Law Project, Virginia State Bar, 2001

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